WASHINGTON — Instagram is blocking posts mentioning abortion to the public, in some cases requiring users to confirm their age before viewing posts containing information about the procedure.
In the past day, several Instagram accounts of abortion rights advocacy groups have hidden their posts or stories with a warning describing the posts as “sensitive content.” Instagram said it was working to fix the issue Tuesday and described it as a “bug”.
In one example, Instagram covered a post on a page with more than 25,000 followers who shared the text, “Abortion in America how to help.” The post then encouraged followers to donate money to abortion organizations and protested the US Supreme Court’s decision to repeal constitutional protections for abortion.
The post was hit with a warning from Instagram covering the center, which read, “This photo may contain graphic or violent content.”
Instagram’s latest snafu follows an Associated Press report that Facebook and Instagram promptly removed posts offering to mail abortion pills in states that restrict their use. The tech platforms said they removed the posts for violating policies against selling or donating certain products, including pharmaceuticals, drugs, and firearms.
Still, the AP’s review found that similar posts offering to mail a gun or marijuana were not removed by Facebook. The company did not respond to questions about the discrepancy.
Berlin photographer Zoe Noble manages the Instagram page whose post referring to abortion was blocked from displaying. The carrier celebrates women who decide not to have children and has been living for over a year. Monday was the first time a post mentioning abortion was restricted by Instagram, though Noble has said it before.
“I was really confused because we’ve never experienced this before, and we’ve talked about abortion before,” Noble said. “I was shocked that the word abortion seemed to be highlighted.”
The platform does not provide users with an opportunity to contest the restriction.
The AP identified nearly a dozen other posts that mentioned the word “abortion” and were subsequently covered up by Instagram. All seats were informative in nature, and none contained pictures of abortions. The company also addressed an Instagram post from an AP reporter asking people if they were experiencing the issue on Tuesday and required users to enter their age to view it.
The AP inquired about the problem on Tuesday morning. Hours later, Instagram’s communications department acknowledged the issue on Twitter and described it as a malfunction. In an email, a spokesperson for Instagram owner Meta Platforms Inc. said that the company does not impose any age restrictions around its abortion content.
“We’re hearing that people worldwide are seeing our ‘sensitivity screens’ on many different types of content when they shouldn’t. We are investigating this bug and are now working on a fix,” the company tweeted.
Tech companies like Meta can hide details about how posts or keywords were promoted or hidden from view, said Brooke Erin Duffy, a Cornell University professor who studies social media.
“This could all be happening behind the scenes, and it could be attributed to a malfunction,” Duffy said. “We don’t know what happened. That’s the cool thing about it.”